Dove Foundation Partners with New Line Cinema to Produce 'Family-friendly' Versions of Videos

      GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (EP) - There's good news for every movie fan who's ever watched a film with one or two offensive elements and thought, "Why'd they put that in there?" The Dove Foundation, an advocacy group for wholesome family entertainment, has formed a partnership with New Line Cinema to produce family-friendly versions of major Hollywood films. The first "Dove-edited" titles will be available through retailers April 24.
    "They've taken out all objectionable content," explains Dick Rolfe, president of the Dove Foundation. "Any nudity, explicit sexual references, all profanity - any profane references to God or Jesus."
    Are the movies watchable after all offensive content has been excised? "Actually, you don't notice it," insists Rolfe. "One redeeming factor about these is that the edits are often directed by the film's director, so they're very clean and smooth. Sometimes they're actually double-scripted, and alternate footage is used."
    Cleaned-up versions of studio films are nothing new. Airlines that feature in-flight movies have had access to such films for years - versions edited to be acceptable for a general audience. Television also edits films, both for content and for length.
    What's new is that these edited versions are being offered for sale to the general public. Each will carry the Dove "family edited" seal of approval on its spine and face. "New Line has begun releasing the airline versions," explains Rolfe. "They submitted to us several airline versions, and of those they submitted we approved four."
    An edited version of "The Mask" starring Jim Carrey was released last year as a test. It did respectable numbers with virtually no publicity. New releases in the Dove-edited line include "The Bachelor," "Blast from the Past," and "Lost in Space." If these are successful, others will follow.
    "Nothing speaks louder than the pocketbook," says Rolfe. "I would encourage people to buy them, to use them, to give them as gifts. Demand is what will speak louder than anything. If the shelves are cleared off, then I think we have an opportunity to change the face of marketing practices in the home video industry."
    For now only videos are available, but Rolfe is intrigued with the possibilities inherent in DVDs. Most DVD players include a control feature that allows parents to limit the ratings of movies that can be viewed. In theory, a DVD movie could ship with more than one rating, with the appropriately rated version showing by default in a player that's had a limit set.
    Some film aficionados complain that family-friendly editing compromises the artistic integrity of a movie. However, Rolfe notes that movies are already edited for airlines and broadcasters. "The whole 'artistic integrity' argument is a weak one, considering that for the right amount of money even some of the purists will edit their movies."
    The debut of Dove-edited versions of films is the realization of a long-standing dream for Rolfe, who began talking with studios about the concept nearly a decade ago. At the time, videos sales were so lucrative that studios saw little need to change their practices. Now that videos sales have leveled off, studios are looking twice at a project that could broaden a film's appeal to include a new audience. "It should be profitable because the product is already in the can, so to speak," Rolfe explains. "The only thing necessary is to release it to the general public, so it's just a matter of packaging and promotion."
    The Dove Foundation isn't the only organization providing edited versions of major studio films - just the only one doing it with the cooperation of the studios. In Utah, a video chain called CleanFlicks has begun offering videos that have been cleaned up for family viewing. In the CleanFlicks version of "Titanic," for instance, there are no nude scenes. Soldiers in the CleanFlicks edition of "Saving Private Ryan" still get shot, but the result is less bloody.
    CleanFlicks owner Ray Lines edits the videos himself, both for rental purposes and for clients who want to own cleaned-up films. He insists he is not acting as a censor, but is merely providing an option for a demanding market. Hollywood attorneys are presently looking into the legality of Lines' actions.
    Rolfe understands what Lines is doing, but thinks the Dove Foundation has a better approach. "The problem [with CleanFlicks] is that it's a spliced movie. It costs you another $20 on top of the price of the film, you have to buy it and bring it in, and then you've basically got a piece of tape that's been physically spliced," he notes. "But it's certainly got the attention of the studios. I think it's bringing this whole issue back into focus - that there is a market out there for kinder, gentler entertainment."
    Dove family-edited videos will be available April 24 from major video chains including Blockbuster and Hollywood Video, and from major retailers, including Target, K-Mart and Wal-Mart.
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